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and better than the Bible. Plans of social progress and improvement are rife, that have an air of transcendental refinement about them, unknown to the homely morality of the Word of God. We are becoming too sentimental to endure that even the murderer shall be put to death. And now we are for bettering God's ordinance of mar. riage itself; and we see a fine, romantic, tender charm in an alliance of brothers and sisters, on which God has stamped his curse. What may such things betoken? Are they ominous of such unbridled lawlessness and lust as marked the days before the Flood? Are they signs of the days not unlike these that are to precede the coming of the Son of Man ?”*
“The task of restoring health and soundness to a society so fearfully diseased as ours unquestionably is, is on all hands acknowledged to be at once the noblest and the most imperative to which citizens or statesmen can now direct their energies.”†
“Society, such as it now is in England, will not continue to endure, &c." I
1. The last battle of civilization is the severest: the last problem the knottiest to solve. Out of all the multitudinous ingredients and influences of the past; out of the conquest of nature, and the victory of freedom; out of the blending and intermixture of all previous forms
* North British Review, No. XXIV, Art. IX, Feb. 1850. p. 299-300. Am. Ed.
† Edingb. Rev. Oct. 1849. Art. VI, p. 497–8. Engl. Ed.
Chateaubriand. Essays on English Literature. Paris. 1838, cited by Kay.
of polity and modifications of humanity, has arisen a complex order of society, of which the disorders and anomalies are as complex as its own structure. now summoned to the combat, not with material difficulties, nor yet with oppressors nor with priests, but with an imperfect and diseased condition of that social world of which we form a part; with pains and evils appalling in their magnitude, bafiling in their subtlety, perplexing in their complication, and demanding far more clear insight and unerring judgment, than even purity of purpose, or commanding energy of will. This conflict may be said to date from the first French Revolution; and it
; has been increasing in intensity ever since, till it has reached to a vividness and solemnity of interest, which surpasses and overshadows the attractions of all other topics, &c. &c.” *
“ England's rapidly accelerating decline is a very remarkable and mournful phenomenon; it is a mortal sickness for which there is no remedy. I liken the English of the present day to the Romans of the third century after Christ." +
The analogy might be extended to nearly all of modern civilization.
“ Tremendous catastrophes have come to pass, and there is no resistance; not a semblance of great men, no joy or enthusiasm, no hopes for the future, except that the time will one day come, when by means of mutual instruction every peasant boy shall be able to read. The
* Westminster Review, No. CXI. Art. III. Jan. 9. 1852. + Niebuhr. Life and Letters, p. 506.
truth of the thing is the unveiled destitution of the populace, who are resolved to bear it no longer, and this again paves the way for a revision of property ; which is not, indeed, something new under the sun, but has been unheard of for centuries past, and even now seems quite inconceivable to our politicians, who have set property, in the place of God, in the Holiest of Holies, &c, &c."*
We cannot venture to extend our extracts, though we have the materials before us to increase them ten-nay, twenty-fold. We contribute these merely as a confirmation of Mr. Fitzhugh's position, that, really and confessedly, Free Society has proved a calamitous and irremediable failure in the principal communities of Christendom.
* Niebuhr, Ibid. p. 528. See also, p. 525.
THE REFORMATION THE RIGHT OF PRIVATE
The Reformation, like the American Revolution, was originated and conducted to successful issue by wise, good and practical men, whose intuitive judgments and sagacious instincts enabled them to feel their way through the difficulties that environed them. Wise men know that there is too much of complexity in the tangled web of human affairs, to justify the attempt at once to practice and philosophise, to act and to reason. Fools and philosophers too often mar the good works of such men, by pretending to see clearly, and to define accurately, the principles of action which have led to those works. A Washington, a Peel, or a Welling. ton, never
o writes himself down an ass” by appealing to abstract principles to justify measures which are rendered necessary by a thousand minute and peculiar circumstances of the hour, which common sense and experience instinctively appreciate, but which philosophy in vain attempts to detect or to generalize. Common sense never attempts “to expel nature,” but suggests and carries through a thousand useful reforms by recurrence to and comparison with the past, and by cautious experimentation,
Common sense sometimes errs by excess of conservation; but it is better to err with Pope, who thought “Whatever is, is right,” than with Jefferson, whose every act and word proves that he held that 66 Whatever is, is wrong.
The Reformation was not the thought and the act of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Erasmus; but the thought and the act of society—the vox Populi, vox Dei. Popes and cardinals are not infallible, but society is. Its harmony is its health; and to differ with it is heresy or treason, because social discord inflicts individual misery; and what disturbs and disarranges society, impairs the happiness and wellbeing of its members.
This doctrine of the infallibility of society, is suggested, though not expressed, in the maximSalus populi, est suprema lex. The Puritans, in the early days of New England, acted it out; and if they hung a few troublesome old women, the good that they achieved was more than compensated for by any errors they may have committed. Liberty of the press, liberty of speech, freedom of religion, or rather freedom from religion, and the unlimited right of private judgment, have borne no good fruits, and many bad ones. Infidels, Skeptics, Millerites, Mormons, Agrarians, Spiritual Rappers,